Attracting Beneficial Wildlife To Your Pond
A pond will serve as a magnet for attracting wildlife to your property, though there are both advantages and disadvantages to animal visitors. Some animals are harmless, entertaining, and/or beneficial to the pond ecosystem, while others can pose various threats to it.
Most of the animal visitors are just passing through while others are more than happy to take up permanent residence in your pond. Pond owners come to expect this and it is for this reason that many consider installing a pond in the first place.
In this article, we are going to list the various beneficial creatures that may appear and why they are beneficial. Please note that some animals may be both beneficial or harmful depending on the environment.
List of Beneficial Animals according to category:
- Ducks, Swans, and Geese
- Snakes (non-venomous)
- Various water bugs
It is an absolute delight to see songbirds drinking and splashing among the edge of the pond or perhaps perched on a branch near the water. Needless to say, pond owners usually enjoy the entertainment provided by these lively creatures. There is also the added benefit that many of these songbirds eat insects like mosquitoes.
Common visitors include:
- blue jays
Ducks are rather picky about their choice of waterways. They prefer larger bodies of water and not your typical small backyard oasis. But if your pond is large enough, then you may see ducks visit from time to time, especially in the spring when they are scoping out nesting sites. Ducks, while messy, are very entertaining swimming on the surface of the water often in pairs or larger groups.
I put the swallows under it’s own category due to their unique acrobatic style of drinking. Just as their name suggests, swallows are able to drink while flying.
When a swallow is thirsty, it opens its mouth while gliding just above the water’s surface. It’s bottom beak barely skims the water into their mouths. In order to do this their flying patterns are really amusing to see.
A pond wouldn’t be a pond without at least one frog. There are many species of frog and in our area of Virginia, many of them will be found in and around the pond at at least some point. Frog species where I live include bull frogs, leopard frogs, and tree frogs. The largest of them is the bullfrog (see below), identified with the prominent yellow underbelly. Bullfrogs are considered invasive in many areas due to their voracious appetites which include many more animals than just insects. They even eat other bullfrogs. If it can fit in its mouth, it is fair game! This is why I believe that it is imperative to have rosies or other small minnows in the pond, to lessen the impact on more appealing fish. But I would make the argument that all frogs should be welcomed to your pond environment.
Frogs are an important part of a pond’s ecosystem for several reasons. First of all, the tadpoles make an excellent food source for koi, and other fish. Tadpoles also eat algae, which is always a welcome benefit. Small frogs consume smaller insects like gnats, mosquitoes, and flies. Larger frogs will consume larger insects like grasshoppers, crickets, and spiders. Sounds good to me!
Another benefit to frogs is their singing which is synonymous with summertime nights and relaxation.
Toads are similar to frogs in which instead of leaping, they tend to hop along the ground. They are noticeably different than frogs due to the bumps (or warts as many people call them) on their skin. These bumps produce a toxin that is distasteful to would-be predators but harmless to humans. They also have a juvenile tadpole stage as well.
Unlike some other animals, toads are not picky about water sources for the express purpose of reproduction. Toads, like frogs need ponds to mate, and lay eggs. These eggs hatch into little black tadpoles, easily identified by their shorter tails in comparison to frog tadpoles. Toads do not stay at the pond for long, but as many pond owners can tell you, there is about a week or two where they will literally come out of the woodwork to the pond. It is during this time that you will be serenaded by a chorus of toads calling for their love.
Toads are beneficial because like frogs they eat a lot of insects! Many people turn away from building ponds due to the concern that it will be breeding grounds for insects. Toads help keep this in balance by consuming bunches of them.
The difference between salamanders and newts are slight. Typically a salamander primarily lives out of the water, but a newt spends most of the time in the water. All newts are a type of salamander, but not all salamanders are newts. If you are fortunate to have salamanders or newts in your pond, they are an important part of the ecological balance of your pond. They, like other amphibians will pretty much eat anything that moves in or out of the water. This includes worms, maggots, nymphs (juvenile insects), etc.
Snakes that are non-venomous include a huge range of species, so it is hard to generalize all non-venomous snakes as beneficial. However, most are beneficial in and around the pond environment because of their propensity to eat other animals that could be harmful to the pond. For instance, if you see a large black snake, they eat mice, voles, moles, and other small mammals that might chew a hole in your pond liner! Many pond owners have had the misfortune to experience a leak because of rodents like chipmunks and the like. A snake could be a good deterrent and minimize this risk. While you may be afraid of snakes, think of them as playing a vital role in maintaining balance. And besides, snakes usually don’t stick around too long.